I wrote down the scriptures he quoted, and promised myself that I would look them up later. As an evangelical Christian who believes in gay marriage, gay love and gay life, I find myself often scribbling down scripture verses for further study.
Things were much simpler in my early life. We attended the church of the holy convenience, where truthiness ruled and my moral compass could be aligned according to the most prevalent winds. While I certainly knew gay people, it was not a topic of discussion. The only times I used the word gay was in making off-hand insults to one of my brothers or close friends. (Being called gay, you see, was not exactly a compliment.) Actual gay people? Well, what they did was their business.
That changed about a decade ago when I came to know Jesus. To find out that the creator of the universe loved me and wanted to have a personal relationship with me, well that changed everything. I wanted to know everything I could about God. Sunday services was not enough… I needed mid-week services and Bible service.
And one of the things I picked up handing around church people was that being gay was a sin. A gay person could certainly come to church, but they could never serve in a leadership position. And I guess that point of view sunk in. For a while there, I came to believe that being gay—while no worse than being a gossip—was something of which God did not approve. Civil unions, that was okay. But marriage? No way.
Then something happened.
Are you ready? I actually got to know some gay people.
On Facebook. Interacting on blogs. And yes, in real life too. And we would talk about life, and movies, and politics, and families, and work. Over the course of a few years, two things became abundantly clear.
One, the Christian-led opposition to gay marriage caused tremendous hurt and pain. It led to confusion, and in many cases, drove people away from God. Christians spending incredible amounts of resources to drive people away from God.
Two, for gay men and women who were in long-term, monogamous relationships, the love between these two people was as real and warm and magical and blessed as any other relationship I have witnessed. From the spats and hugs to the tears and morning coffees, gay love was simply love.
Over time it became evident that opposition to gay marriage was anything but Christ-like. So where was the disconnect?
The pastor in Long Island who condemned the gay quoted Romans 1: 27-27.
26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Now I don’t recall ever thinking that the love I have for my wife could adequately be described as “inflamed with lust”. And the gay men and women I know have never used that term either. So I can only wonder… is Paul not condemning the fact of being gay… but rather a specific type of behavior? Is he talking about reckless sex and lust without love?
(I could also mention that Romans 1 is followed by a discourse on why no one should judge anyone else, but I digress.)
You could have similar debates regarding word choice and meaning with most of the other scripture verses used to blanketly vilify gay men and women, such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:9-10 and Jude 1:7.
Leviticus is another story. Lev 20:13 reads: If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
I will not venture to wordsmith this passage, but will make two quick remarks. The people I know who swear by the first half of this verse do not believe in the second half. More importantly—and I don’t mean to use this as a Christian crutch—but Jesus changed everything. His life. His death. His resurrection. Everything changed.
So here’s where I am. Is being gay a sin?
Jesus spent a lot of time with both religious leaders and the “non-church crowd”, and he had nothing to say on the topic. But what he did was promise that he would send a Counselor… and that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved – and when you are saved, the law will be placed on your heart.
The law is on my heart. When I wake up in the morning, I have a clear understanding of what I should do—and not do—to both share and proclaim the love I have for God. And yes, God finds ways to ‘raise the bar’ on these expectations over time.
So today, I implore my Christian brothers and sisters to stop wasting their breath discussing what is right and wrong with others and simply focus all of the energy on helping people fall in love with Christ. Just help people fall in love with the one who loves them more than anything.
There is right. There is wrong. And I have complete confidence that anyone who walks toward Christ with love in their hearts will be able to discern right from wrong on their own. I invite you on this journey.
In the meantime, I just want to say thank you to the men and women who had the courage to share their lives and stories with me over the past few years--stories, i imagine, that were not always so easy to share.